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If your greenery is looking mostly, well, green, then it's time to add some colorful blooms to your collection. The goldfish plant is the perfect place to start, and the cute orange blooms it has look similar to a sprightly goldfish swimming around in its tank.
Native to Central and South America, the flowering foliage boasts bright blooms in shades of orange, yellow, and red that can be up to two to three inches long. It also vines, and these can grow to around three feet long if you don't trim them.
To produce as many blooms as possible and to thrive in your home, the goldfish plant requires some pretty particular care. That doesn't mean it's super difficult to keep alive, but if you want it to be looking bright and happy, you'll have to pay more attention to it than some of your other houseplants.
It may not be the best for beginner plant parents, but with the right research and know-how, anyone can take care of this beauty. We've rounded up everything you need to know to keep this trailing, flowering plant looking great all year round.
- Botanical Name: Columnea gloriosa
- Common Name: Goldfish plant
- Plant Type: Perennial
- Mature Size: Stems 2 to 3 in. long, branches up to 3 ft. long
- Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect sunlight
- Soil Type: Well-draining mix, like an African Violet mix
- Soil pH: 6.1 to 6.5
This isn't s super beginner-friendly plant, but that's only because it requires more attention than the average houseplant. Because it's native to warm, tropical areas, this plant prefers a warm, humid climate, even if it's indoors. This means it won't thrive indoors near a window during cold months, but it can certainly survive.
In terms of care, it's best to place your goldfish plant in bright, indirect light (think a couple of feet from a north-facing window or near a window with sheer curtains) and lots of moisture. However, lots of moisture does not mean watering often. Spritz the plant's leaves with a light mist every day, and consider keeping it near other plants or a humidifier so it doesn't dry out. When it comes to watering, keep it moist, but not sopping wet in the summer. In the winter, the plant can go a little drier between waterings, but it should never completely dry out.
Because it lives under tree cover in the wild, the plant can hold on to water for a little bit (somewhat similar to a succulent), but it normally likes a drink every other week or so during the growing season. Similarly, because it is under tree cover, the leaves on the plant can burn if exposed to direct, harsh light.
When growing it indoors, the two most important things are light and water. Keep it moist and ensure it has the correct amount of light (even if you have to use a grow light), and you'll have plenty of blooms when the plant flowers. Once those blooms start to wilt, pinch them off so the plant can use its energy toward other things — like producing even more flowers!
Best Growing Conditions for Goldfish Plants
Like we mentioned, bright, indirect light is key for making sure your plant gets the energy it needs to bloom. Placing it near a south- or west-facing window is a great option, but make sure it's far enough away from the window that it isn't getting harsh light. The waxy leaves can burn, which can harm the plant in the long run.
Keeping the plant moist is another factor of helping it bloom. A light misting every day will keep its humidity levels up without causing you to overwater it. When it does need a drink, try watering it from the bottom of the plant so that it only takes up the water it needs. This not only keeps you from overwatering, but it helps strengthen the root system of the plant. To bottom water, simply place your plant (ensuring that it's in a container with a drainage hole) into a pan or bowl of water, leave it for about 30 minutes, and take it out. In that time, the plant should have absorbed all the water it wants. Do this every other week.
For soil, make sure you have a well-draining mix. An African Violet mix from your local garden center will work well for the goldfish plant. Basically, you don't want your soil to hold too much water (which can lead to root rot), but you also don't want water to evaporate too quickly (which can lead the plant to dry out). A mix that drains well is the perfect combination.
The leaves of your plant will collect dust over time. When it's time to water and the leaves are dusty, take your goldfish plant into the shower for a quick rinse and water.
How to Propagate Goldfish Plants
The easiest way to propagate a goldfish plant is through a stem cutting, much how you would with a pothos or philodendron plant. Just make sure to use a clean, sharp blade or scissors to make the cut so you aren't hacking at the plant.
What You Need
- Well-draining soil mix
- Sharp scissors
- Rooting hormone (optional)
Instructions for Stem Cuttings:
- Cut a piece of the goldfish plant with a few leaves on it, something around two-four inches long.
- (Optional) Dip in rooting hormone.
- Stick the stem in the soil.
- Keep it out of direct sunlight and keep it humid. New sprouts or leaves should appear once it has established a root system.
To keep your cutting humid, you can make a "greenhouse" out of a plastic bag by placing it over the pot you place your propagation in.
Common Growing Problems
Thankfully, you don't have to worry about a ton of diseases with the goldfish plant. You do, however, want to check it regularly for pests like spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs. It can be difficult to see them because they tend to hide under leaves, so be sure to look closely. Signs of pests can show up as little white webs near the bases of leaves or you may see them crawling on the plant.
You should also be careful of root rot, which is caused by overwatering. If you do overwater, the leaves on your plant will become mushy and yellow. Make sure you cut back on watering immediately, and you may even want to check the roots and prune away any black or brown roots. Then, repot into new soil.
Potting and Repotting
Like many vining plants, goldfish plants don't mind being a little root bound. This means you really don't have to repot them unless you see obvious signs of roots trying to escape the planter they are in (like roots coming out of drainage holes or out of the top of the soil). You may want to repot every two or three years, making sure to only go up a couple of inches in pot size.
- My Little Jungle. "Nematanthus Gregarius Care – Goldfish Plant."